It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I congratulate my hon. Friend Justin Madders on his excellent speech.
The Prorogation of Parliament is just the latest in a series of reckless and opportunistic gambles undertaken by Conservative Prime Ministers on the issue of Europe. As always, the hardworking people of this country will most suffer as a result. David Cameron refused to face the consequences of his own decision to hold the 2016 in/out referendum on Europe with no conditions at all. Theresa May argued that no deal was better than a bad deal and, after she brought a bad deal back to Parliament, we now, unsurprisingly, face crashing out without a deal. That outcome was not even part of the discussion in 2016, yet nothing else will now satisfy this Government’s far-right backers.
In the last few years, poverty, inequality and homelessness have risen. Against that backdrop, Parliament has been reduced to banging on endlessly about Europe. As the Prime Minister suspends Parliament to take us out of Europe without a deal, experts and the Government’s own advisers warn of food shortages and limited access to medical supplies. Just stop and think about that for a second—peacetime shortages of food and medicine. That is not the result of a natural disaster but a political disaster—the Conservative party.
The damage of a no-deal Brexit will not be temporary; it threatens profound systematic damage to our economy. The Bank of England says that that outcome would permanently—not temporarily—reduce the UK’s export potential. The Treasury believes that it would result in an economy 8% to 10% smaller in 15 years than if we were to remain in the European Union, with the north- west hit the hardest. The president of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters, said that a no-deal Brexit would be
“socially and economically catastrophic for farming in Britain.”
Make UK, the manufacturers organisation, said that it would be
“disastrous for the majority of UK manufacturers and the livelihoods of the millions of people they employ and their families.”
Yet to realise this disastrous outcome, the Government have resolved to gag Parliament in these most critical days for our country. That they can proceed with such arrogance is astonishing, after all, it will not be their families who are on the breadline or their livelihoods that are destroyed. We need to prevent the irreparable damage of no deal at all costs.
The single greatest myth of a no-deal Brexit is the idea that it avoids the need for negotiations with the European Union. The day after we crash out without a deal, the need for a strategic relationship with our largest and nearest market would remain, and we would seek a free-trade agreement. The Government talk about strengthening our negotiating position with the EU, but in reality, the day after no deal, we would be forced to go cap in hand to the EU for a trade deal, with our economy in tatters. How would we negotiate then? We talk about keeping no deal on the table to negotiate, but if we crash out without a deal, how can we expect a good free-trade agreement afterwards?
MPs from across the House must fight with all our might to stop no deal. That is why I will vote against a general election this evening until the threat of leaving the EU without a deal is ruled out. Otherwise, we are up for a general election and we are ready for one.